Guilt exists in many forms, under various guises, in different degrees. For me, guilt sounds like the soft voice that whispers in my ear, “Look at what you’ve done.” Guilt is that split second before I avert my eyes from the mirror, disgusted at the monster staring back at me, who caused so much pain and heartbreak to the people I love most. Guilt is what I see when I gaze into my siblings’ eyes, at childhoods and innocence lost due to parental preoccupation with hospitalization and treatment and therapy sessions. Guilt is what I carry with me on a daily basis, an invisible, yet irrevocably present weight on my shoulders.
It’s hard not to feel immensely guilty. When you’ve made your mother cry herself to sleep for nights on end, when you’ve compromised your own siblings’ well-being by being the center of attention for all those years, and when you’ve ruined many pleasant dinners through your self-proclaimed starvation, it’s almost impossible not to be overcome with an oppressive clout of guilt. Having been the oldest of four, I set a bad example for my younger siblings, teaching them it was ok to starve yourself and constantly disobey your parents. Because my parents had to deal with the significant, all-consuming issue of keeping me alive throughout the darkest times, my siblings were often lower priorities, stuck in the shadow of my looming struggles. But the thing is….it wasn’t because of me. It was because of my disorder.
When I was at my worst, I was no longer in control. Rather, this suffocating, terrible voice in my head that constantly breathed degrading insults was my puppet-master, controlling my every thought and action. Can we truly be guilty for things we can’t control? Of course, we can feel guilty, but are we actually guilty?
No. Although I know that I wasn’t me when I was causing the hurt and the tears and the affliction, it is still extremely difficult to let go of the guilt that has accompanied me throughout my recovery process. But like recovery itself, although it may seem galaxies out of reach, we must muster all our inner strength and just let go. We must let go of the guilt, for it is only holding us back from becoming better. We must let go of the guilt, for remaining glued to the past won’t move us any closer to reaching a brighter future. We must let go of the guilt, for it is only then that we can soar.
Forgiving myself has been one of the most challenging aspects of recovery. Learning to move forward when the broken remnants of pain are still visible is a struggle I deal with everyday. But I have come to the realization that beating myself up for the destruction my disorder caused is only holding me back from becoming a better, newer version of myself.
So, when you feel like you don’t deserve happiness or love because of the storm that has surrounded you, remember this: You are worthy. Your disorder may not be worthy, but you are not your disorder. That guilt you feel, let it motivate you to change for the better. For it is only once we let go of this darkness that we will learn how many tiny and immense acts of greatness we can truly accomplish.